A distinguished and deeply influential American novelist, poet, playwright, James Baldwin was a pioneer of the civil rights movement, becoming a key public voice of black experience in the 1950’s and 60’s. Born in Harlem, New York City in 1924, Baldwin was a preacher in a revivalist church after school as a teenager, an experience he later wrote about in his first novel, Go Tell It On the Mountain and in essays, later collected in Notes of a Native Son.
A restless period followed after Baldwin left high school. Dissatisfied by the racial prejudice he experienced and coming to terms with his own homosexuality, he left America for Paris in 1948, becoming part of the Left Bank’s radical avant-garde.Here he wrote his second novel, Giovanni’s Room, a controversial and ground-breaking portrayal of gay love and conflicted desire.
Although he would remain intermittently resident in France for the rest of his life, Baldwin returned to the United States in 1957, joining the civil rights movement and he explored his experiences both in essays collected in the book Nobody Knows My Name and in the novel Another Country. Famously the New York Times gave over almost an entire issue to a landmark article by Baldwin which he later published as a bestselling book, The Fire Next Time. Although Baldwin never achieved the acclaim of his earlier works, he continued to write throughout his life, becoming a figurehead for America’s gay rights movement and producing novels including Going to Meet the Man, Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone, If Beale Street Could Talk, Just Above My Head; and The Price of the Ticket as well as the Broadway play Blues for Mister Charlie.